Leave some grass for turnout time unless farm is lightly stocked

Irish Examiner - Farming - - BEEF/TECHNOLOGY - Brian Reidy

This time last year — just in case you need re­mind­ing — a lot of st k were al­ready housed.

This year has had its ups and downs, but at least the back­end of the year has been kind, so far.

The ideal graz­ing con­di­tions of Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber have been a great bonus for live­stock farm­ers, hope­fully re­duc­ing their win­ter silage re­quire­ments, and tak­ing pres­sure off slurry stores.

Un­der­foot con­di­tions have rarely been bet­ter, as we head into Novem­ber next week. Growth con­tin­ued at rel­a­tively high lev­els in re­cent weeks, and many have given in to temp­ta­tion and gone back into (or will soon go back into) fields that they h a d al­ready closed for the win­ter. Un­doubt­edly, growth has been fan­tas­tic, but you re­ally must look to next spring at this st e (unless your farm is lightly stocked, see be­low).

Are an­i­mals on late Oc­to­ber grass pe as you re­quire, and what grass will you have left at turnout in the spring? Ob­vi­ously, most farm­ers are in a tight sit­u­a­tion for fod­der saved for the win­ter, and may need to stretch the graz­ing sea­son so that they will not run out of feed in the spring.

Is this the cor­rect strategy? It all boils down to do­ing a feed bud­get and hav­ing ac­cu­rate silage anal­y­sis. There is a lot more feed­ing in pits than you think, be­cause most silages are quite dry this year.

If you are short of win­ter feed­ing, now is the time to buy ad­di­tional sup­plies. There is no point wait­ing un­til next spring to buy feed when it may be scarce and higher priced.

An­i­mal per­for­mance from grass in Oc­to­ber, Novem­ber

Wean­lings that re­main out, unless they are be­ing sup­ple­mented with con­cen­trates, are un­likely to be achiev­ing growth tar­gets.

This is more of an is­sue if these are heifers you in­tend on bulling to calve down next au­tumn or even next spring. They need to be grow­ing well, and in a pos­i­tive en­ergy sta­tus, in or­der to reach sex­ual ma­tu­rity and be­gin cy­cling well in ad­vance of the breed­ing sea­son.

For bulls or bul­locks, you in­tend on sell­ing next spring, any re­duced weight gain now will sig­nif­i­cantly lower your sale price.

Spring calves still with cows are ben­e­fit­ing hugely from a good qual­ity creep feed, be­cause the power has gone out of their grass, and cows are near dry­ing off.

Au­tumn calvers

Try to keep cows rear­ing calves on the best qualit grass avail­able, be­cause this will help main­tain cow milk yield and qual­ity, while also im­prov­ing her abilit re­turn to cy­cling.

As nights get colder, it is crit­i­cal that magnes m sup­ple­men­ta­tion is done right, with an am­ple sup­ply of licks for the num­ber of cows in the group.

Graz­ing heavy cov­ers and pre­par­ing for 2019 silage

If your farm is lightly stocked, then you can af­ford to graze on, be­cause de­mand will not be very high in the spring. How­ever, if you are heav­ily stocked at turnout time next spring, then you re­ally need to con­sider hous­ing some stock rel­a­tively soon. Ob­vi­ously it is bett to graze off any heavy cov­ers in or­der to en­sure sward qual­ity next spring.

If you are ex­clu­sively graz­ing silage fields, that is a dif­fer­ent st y, be­cause next year’s crop will ben­e­fit from be­ing grazed tight in the back­end of the year.

In fact, it is ev­i­dent that those who graze silage ground tightly in Novem­ber with­out do­ing dam­age, rather than graz­ing it in the spring, tend to pro­duce an ex­cel­lent first cut each year.

This is down to be­ing able to take a much ear­lier, if the ground was grazed tight be­fore Christ­mas.

In­de­pen­dent dairy and beef nutrition con­sul­tant Brian Reidy, Pre­mier Farm Nutrition, can be con­tacted at brian@pfn.ie

Pic­ture: John Tar­rant

At last Satur­day’s Na­tional Dairy Show in Mill­street, Sean Kelly, MEP, con­grat­u­lated Áine O’con­nor and Gil­lian Casey who, along with Máire Moy­lan, rep­re­sent Coláiste Treasa, Kan­turk, in the Cer­ti­fied Ir­ish An­gus Beef Schools Com­pe­ti­tion.

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